The Round Up Cafe on King George Boulevard is subject of a special event at City Centre Library on Feb. 16. (File photo: Amy Reid)

MINTY: ‘Stories from the Round Up Cafe’ at Surrey’s City Centre Library

Also, 'Forget About Tomorrow' play reveals singer John Mann's struggles with Alzheimer's

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

Remember yesterday, forget about tomorrow. This is our journey this week, as we discover a way to preserve the past in written word, and look at the challenges of the future as presented in a play. The arts do not imitate life. Life is celebrated in the arts. True story.

Surrey poet laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar and members of the Flamingo Square Arts Society are collecting stories from the Round Up Cafe, a restaurant that has been an important hub of community life in the Whalley area – now City Centre — for nearly six decades. Starting in 1959, owners Orris and Goldie Springenatic ran, and have run, the diner-style café, and their customers have lived through decades of Surrey’s changes.

• READ MORE: Surrey’s Round-Up Cafe takes you back in time, from July 2015.

City Centre, formally known as Whalley, is probably most dramatically changed as the city imposes highrises, density and city hall on this community. Many residents found comfort in the food at the Round Up. Over the decades they watched their community change.

Do you have memories of the Round Up Cafe? For an event called “Stories from the Round Up Cafe,” bring your history to share at City Centre Library on Friday, Feb. 16 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., for an afternoon of memories. Be a part of capturing important stories of the Whalley area for everyone to enjoy for years to come. Register by calling 604-598-7426, or visit surreylibraries.ca for more details. Interesting. It always amazes me how much of an “arts centre” are Surrey’s libraries.

Meanwhile, Forget About Tomorrow is a new play about a man’s battle with Alzheimer’s and the family impact. The story is based on Spirit of the West singer John Mann’s struggle with the disease. Mann, a Juno Award-winning songwriter, is an iconic figure in Canada’s music world. His songs are etched in our hearts.

In 2014, Mann publicly revealed his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. What most people didn’t know, however, was that his wife, Jill Daum (a member of the award-winning Mom’s the Word Collective) had started writing a play based on their experience with the disease. John wrote a public letter where he said, “I don’t want to spend any more energy trying to hide my symptoms. I don’t want to feel embarrassed. I want to accept what has happened and live. I will continue to make music and I will continue to do shows. My Spirit of the West bandmates have circled me with care and we will forge ahead as we’ve been doing the last 30 some odd years with humour and friendship, playing our hearts out. I will continue to write and tour, because this is what I do and what I love. Thanks for being there, John.”

• READ MORE: John Mann alive and wanting to make music, health willing, from January 2016.

The challenges in life can be overwhelming as we face tomorrow. Is it better to forget what tomorrow might bring? Losing our mental capacity and awareness is devastating. I think we all fear it may happen to us, or we might have a partner that becomes afflicted.

Forget About Tomorrow is a dramatic comedy that weaves together the experiences of Jane (Jennifer Lines), Tom (Craig Erickson), and their two adult children (Aren Okemaysim and Aleita Northey) in the months following Tom’s diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Each family member struggles with their own fears, questions, memories and purposes, and the family’s unity is put into peril when Jane questions her loyalty to a man who will ultimately forget her name.

The last two songs Mann ever wrote were for this play. “Working on the music was as cathartic for him as writing the words were for me,” Daum says. “And finding the humour together was a healing endeavour.” How can you not want to see this play. Yes, that was not a question.

An Arts Club Theatre Company production, Forget About Tomorrow runs from March 1 to 25 at Goldcorp Stage at BMO Theatre Centre in Vancouver. This is the area used for the Olympic Village for the 2010 Winter Games. Remember? Tickets are priced from $29 at artsclub.com, or call 604-687-1644.

Forget About Tomorrow is the Arts Club’s 13th Silver Commissions Project produced since the new play-development program was established in 2006. The Waiting Room (John Mann and Morris Panych), another project from this commission, is also a tribute to the life and courage of John Mann. This musical follows “J” in his battle with cancer in 2009. John, you are an inspiration to all of us. When life gives you lemons, don’t make just lemonade – make music.

melminty@telus.net

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